School's out, camp is in. But set aside time for boredom

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

School hasn't even been out for two weeks for most Metro Detroit school districts and working parents everywhere have already stepped into the next phase of frenzied, parenting insanity. It's called summer camp.

Oakland Yard Athletics in Waterford offers everything from dinosaur camp for kids to a Lego camp.

Scrap what you remember about day camps filled with kickball and clunky crafts. Day camps these days have morphed into specialized experiences that cater to every interest you can imagine. There are science camps, drama camps, Lego camp and more.

Oakland Yard Athletics in Waterford offers nearly every kind of camp imaginable. Want your kid to try yoga? There's a camp for that. Your little one digs dinosaurs? There's a Dinosaurs Camp. How about golf? There's a camp for that too.

Haberman Fabrics in Clawson this week offered its annual week-long Kids Sewing Summer Camp. Kids eight and up, mostly girls with one boy, have been learning sewing machine basics, how to measure and cut fabric.

My own eight-year-old has been at a local camp through our school district's community education department. He's been learning Spanish, making slime and swimming every day in a local lake. He's only been in camp for eight days and managed to fry his back twice with a terrible sunburn (camp is teaching us both to never under-estimate the importance of both a swim shirt and sunblock).

Last year, I signed my guy up for a whole smorgasbord of camps -- Safety Town, art camp (complete with an art show at the end) and drama camp. It was a whirlwind of fun.

But camp comes with a cost. Some cost more than $200 a week. And planning has to start months in advance.

Growing up, summer camp wasn't high on my parents' priority list since my mom was a stay-at-home parent so we didn't need to be anywhere. Our biggest field trip of the week was heading to the local library where I scooped up "Sweet Valley High" books by the dozen and dreamed what it would be like to be Elizabeth or Jessica Wakefield.

If we were really lucky, our mom would have us pick weeds in the backyard and we'd make a highly anticipated trip to the wave pool in Madison Heights once a summer. 

But for working parents, camp isn't just a fun way to keep kids busy. It's an absolute must. 

Still, amid the endless whirl of camps and other activity these days, I'm making a point to carve out time for something else: nothing. Research show boredom isn't necessarily a bad thing for young kids. 

Studies have found a link between boredom and creativity because a bored mind will look for ways to boost stimulation. And experts say in our ever-busy world, where we sign up our kids for one activity after another, there's also links between unstructured play and lower anxiety rates.

So in between camps and vacations this summer, the next time my kids utter the complaint that's like nails on a chalkboard for any parent -- "I'm bored" -- I'll have to remember. That's a good thing.